Trans folk have already lost the religious discrimination debate
Opinion / By , 9 February 2022 at 10:53pm
Regardless of whether the Morrison government's Religious Discrimination Bill passes into law, Australia's trans community has already taken a huge hit.

Let’s recap

The Liberal/National coalition’s bill has been kicking around in one form or another for years. The bill seeks to give legal protection to people practising their religion, but is broad enough to prompt concerns it could be used to justify denial of care, services, employment, or education to minority groups.

With the bill in parliament this week, there has been renewed focus on protections – or lack thereof – for queer staff and students at schools, who can already be excluded over their sexuality or gender identity. In response, the government promised to amend existing laws to partially protect same sex attracted staff and students, while making it clear transgender and gender diverse students will not be granted the same limited protections.

True colours

With the coalition promising the bill at the last election and Labor deciding there’s votes in supporting it this time around, transgender people – especially trans kids – have been shown few in parliament actually care about their welfare or equality. A line has been drawn between supporting cisgender queers and trans people, with the latter apparently not worthy of the same protections from school expulsions, unfair dismissals, and ultimately hate speech.

Just as the needless marriage equality plebiscite encouraged and amplified hateful statements about queers, this bill has opened the floor to commentary on whether we should be allowed to exist in public spaces. The big difference this time is Labor mostly sticking to the conservative camp, only seeking small amendments despite widespread condemnation from progressives of the legislation as a whole.

Labor’s support of the legislation is especially surprising given New South Wales’ conservative Catholic premier, Dominic Perrottet, says it is unnecessary and problematic.

I took the trans flag off my Twitter bio some time ago as I’m sick of my existence being a political statement. Apparently there’s no point resisting that now – trans rights are once again the football being kicked around parliament house, and it appears Labor has agreed to play kick-to-kick rather than put the ball away and vote the bill down.

A sign of things to come?

Gender diverse kids have always had a hard time at school, and trans students have spoken of the distress brought by their rights being put up for debate. It has been tough for trans and gender diverse adults, too; the hate certainly doesn’t stop at graduation, and the idea there could be formalised justification for religious discrimination against us is daunting.

Rights of trans and gender diverse people are under attack around the world. Part of what makes this latest attack on us so scary is what we can see happening in the UK, where bigots led by major public figures like JK Rowling seek to vilify trans people and hold back rights. This is even playing out at the national level, with the UK government telling Scotland to pause its push for equality.

Australia is known for following UK and US social and political trends, and Canberra is laying the groundwork for even more open hatred directed at the trans community.

People who usually vote Liberal and Labor can choose to show the parties as much support at the ballot box as they show trans kids in parliament. This close to the election, both parties seem to be banking on a majority of Australians being bigots.


The events of this week again highlight the strange presence of Liberal and Labor at Melbourne queer festival Midsumma, which is on until 13 February 2022. That the organising group welcomes the parties into the fold while this “debate” is going on is gutless at best – if they’re going to kick us to the kerb in parliament, kick them out of pride.

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Tags: federal labor party federal liberal party midsumma opinion queer issues religious discrimination bill transphobia


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